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BEFORE treating of the structure and component parts of a regular oration, Ipurposed making some observations on the peculiar strain, the distinguishing characters, of each of the three great kinds of public speaking. I have already treated of the Eloquence of popular assemblies, and of the Eloquence of the bar. The subject which remains for this Lecture is, the strain and spirit of that Eloquence which is suited to the pulpit. Let us begin with considering the advantages, and disadvantages, which belong to this field of public speaking. The pulpit has plainly several advantages peculiar to itself. The dignity and importance of its subjects must be acknowledged superior to any other. They are such as ought to interest every one, and can be brought home to every man's heart; and such as admit, at the same time, both the highest embellishment in describing, and the greatest vehemence and warmth in enforcing them. The preacher has also great advantages in treating his subjects. He speaks not to one or a few judges, but to a large assembly. He is secure from all interruption. He is obliged to no replies, or extemporaneous efforts. He chooses his theme at leisure; and comes to the public with all the assistance which the most accurate premeditation can give him.

But, together with these advantages, there are also peculiar difficulties that attend the Eloquence of the pulpit. The preacher, it is true, has no trouble in contending with an adversary; but then, debate and contention enliven the genius of men, and procure attention. The pulpit orator is, perhaps, in too quiet possession of his field. His subjects of discourse are, in themselves, noble and important; but they are subjects

trite and familiar. They have, for ages, employed so many speakers, and so many pens; the public ear is so much accustomed to them, that it requires more than an ordinary power of genius to fix attention. Nothing within the reach of art is more difficult, than to bestow, on what is common, the grace of novelty. No sort of composition whatever is such a trial of skill, as where the merit of it lies wholly in the execution; not in giving any information that is new, not in convincing men of what they did not believe; but in dressing truths which they knew, and of which they were before convinced, in such colours as may most forcibly affect their imagination and heart.* It is to be considered, too, that the subject of the preacher generally confines him to abstract qualities, to virtues and vices; whereas, that of other popular speakers leads them to treat of persons; which is a subject that commonly interests the hearers more, and takes faster hold of the imagination. The preacher's business is solely to make you detest the crime. The pleader's, to make you detest the criminal. He describes a living person; and with more facility rouses your indignation. From these causes, it comes to pass, that though we have a great number of moderately good preachers, we have, however, so few that are singularly eminent. We are still far from perfection in the art of preaching; and perhaps there are few things, in which it is. more difficult to ex

* What I have said on this subject, coincides very much with the observations made by the famous M. Bruyere, in his Maeurs de Siecle, when he is comparing the eloquence of the pulpit with that of the bar. "L'Eloquence de la chaire, en ce qui y entre d'humain, & du talent de l'orateur, est cachée, connue de peu de personnes, & d'une difficile execution. Il fout marcher par des chemins battus, dire cequi a été dit, & ce que l'on prevoit que vous allez: dire les matiéres sont grandes, mains usées & triviales; les principes surs, mains dont les auditeurs penetrent les conclusions d'une seule vûe: il y entre des sujets qui sont sublimes, mais qui peut traiter le sublime?-Le Prédicateur n'est point soutenu comme l'avocat par des faits toujours nouveaux, par de differens evénémens, par des avantures inouies; il ne s'exerce point sur les questions douteuses; il ne fait point valoir les violentes conjectures, & les presomptions; toutes choses, neanmoins, qui élevent le génie, lui donnent de la force, & de l'étendue, & qui contraignent bien moins l'éloquence, qu'elles ne le fixent, & le dirigent. 11 doit, au contraire, tirer son discours d'une source commune, & ou tout le monde puise; & s'il s'écarte de ces lieux communs, il n'est plus populaire'; il est abstrait ou déclamateur." The inference which he draws from these reflections is very just; "il est plus aisé de prêcher que de plaider; mais plus difficile de bien prêcher que de bien plaider." Les Caracteres, ou Mœurs de ce Siecle, p. 601.


The object, however, is noble and worthy, upon many accounts, of being pursued with zeal.

It may perhaps occur to some, that preaching is no proper subject of the art of Eloquence. This, it may be said, belongs only to human studies and inventions: but the truths of religion, with the greater simplicity, and the less mixture of art they are set forth, they are likely to prove the more successful. This objection would have weight, if Eloquence were, as the persons who made such an objection commonly take it to be, an ostentatious and deceitful art, the study of words and of plausibility only, calculated to please, and to tickle the ear. But against this idea of Eloquence I have all along guarded. True Eloquence is the art of placing truth in the most advantageous light for conviction and persuasion. This is what every good man who preaches the gospel not only may, but ought to have at heart. It is most intimately connected with the success of his ministry; and were it needful, as assuredly it is not, to reason any further on this head, we might refer to the discourses of the prophets and apostles, as models of the most sublime and persuasive Eloquence, adapted both to the imagination and the passions of men.

An essential requisite, in order to preach well, is, to have a just, and at the same time, a fixed and habitual view of the end of preaching. For in no art can any man execute well, who has not a just idea of the end and object of that art. The end of all preaching is, to persuade men to become good. Every sermon, therefore, should be a persuasive oration. Not but that the preacher is to instruct and to teach, to reason and argue. All persuasion, as I showed formerly, is to be founded on con

* What I say here, and in other passages, of our being far from perfection, in the art of preaching, and of there being few who are so singularly eminent in it, is to be always understood as referring to an ideal view of the perfection of this art, which none, perhaps, since the days of the apostles, ever did, or ever will reach. But in that degree of the Eloquence of the pulpit, which promotes, in a considerable measure, the great end of edification, and gives a just title to high reputation and esteem, there are many who hold a very honourable rank. I agree entirely in opinion with a candid judge (Dr. Campbell on Rhetoric, B. i. ch. 10.) who observes that considering how rare the talent of Eloquence is among men, and considering all the disadvantages under which preachers labour, particularly from the frequency of this exercise, joined with the other duties of their office, to which fixed pastors are obliged, there is more reason to wonder that we hear se many instructive, and even Eloquent sermons, than that we hear so few.

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viction. The understanding must always be applied to in the first place, in order to make a lasting impression on the heart: and he who would work on men's passions, or influence their practice, without first giving them just principles, and enlightening their minds, is no better than a mere declaimer. He may raise transient emotions, or kindle a passing ardour; but can produce no solid or lasting effect. At the same time, it must be remembered, that all the preacher's instructions are to be of the practical kind; and that persuasion must ever be his ultimate object. It is not to discuss some abstruse point, that he ascends the pulpit. It is not to illustrate some metaphysical truth, or to inform men of something which they never heard before; but it is to make them better men; it is to give them, at once, clear views, and persuasive impressions of religious truth. The Eloquence of the pulpit then, must be popular Eloquence. One of the first qualities of preaching is to be popular; not in the sense of accommodation to the humours and prejudices of the people, (which tends only to make a preacher contemptible) but, in the true sense of the word, calculated to make impression on the people; to strike and to seize their hearts. I scruple not therefore to assert, that the abstract and philosophical manner of preaching, however it may have sometimes been admired, is formed upon a very faulty idea, and deviates widely from the just plan of pulpit Eloquence. Rational, indeed, a preacher ought always to be; he must give his audience clear ideas on every subject, and entertain them with sense, not with sound; but to be an accurate reasoner will be small praise, if he be not a persuasive speaker also.


Now, if this be the proper idea of a sermon, a persuasive oration, one very material consequence follows, that the preacher himself, in order to be successful, must be a good man. In a preceding lecture, I endeavoured to shew, that on no subject can any man be truly eloquent, who does not utter the, veræ voces ab imo pectore," who does not speak the language of his own conviction and his own feelings. If this holds, as, in my opinion, it does in other kinds of public speaking, it certainly holds in the highest degree in preaching. There, it is of the utmost consequence that the speaker firmly believe both the truth, and the importance of those principles which he inculVOL. II.

cates on others; and, not only that he believe them specula⚫tively, but have a lively and serious feeling of them. This will always give an earnestness and strength, a fervour of piety to his exhortations, superior in its effects to all the arts of studied Eloquence; and, without it, the assistance of art will seldom be able to conceal the mere declaimer. A spirit of true piety would prove the most effectual guard against those errors which preachers are apt to commit. It would make their discourses solid, cogent, and useful; it would prevent those frivolous and ostentatious harangues, which have no other aim than merely to make a parade of speech, or amuse an audience; and perhaps the difficulty of attaining that pitch of habitual piety and goodness, which the perfection of pulpit Eloquence would require, and of uniting it with that thorough knowledge of the world, and those other talents which are requisite for excelling in the pulpit, is one of the great causes why so few arrive at very high eminence in this sphere.

The chief characteristics of the eloquence suited to the pulpit, as distinguished from the other kinds of public speaking, appear to me to be these two, gravity and warmth. The serious nature of the subjects belonging to the pulpit, requires gravity; their importance to mankind, requires warmth. It is far from being either easy or common to unite these characters of eloquence. The grave, when it is predominant, is apt to run into a dull uniform solemnity. The warm, when it wants gravity, borders on the theatrical and light. The union of the two must be studied by all preachers as of the utmost consequence, both in the composition of their discourses, and in their manner of delivery. Gravity and warmth united, form that character of preaching which the French call Onction; the affecting, penetrating, interesting manner, flowing from a strong sensibility of heart in the preacher to the importance of those truths which he delivers, and an earnest desire that they may make full impression on the hearts of his hearers.

Next to a just idea of the nature and object of pulpit Eloquence, the point of greatest importance to a preacher, is a proper choice of the subjects on which he preaches. To give rules for the choice of subjects for sermons, belongs to the theological more than to the rhetorical chair; only in gene

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